No. 1 seeded men’s lacrosse comes back to defeat North Carolina in ACC semifinals

Cavaliers advance to ACC finals with 14-13 victory over the Tar Heels

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Sophomore attackman Matt Moore recorded six assists against North Carolina 

Courtesy Virginia Athletics

The top-seeded Virginia men’s lacrosse team beat North Carolina for the second time this season in the semifinal round of the ACC Championship Saturday. After taking down the Tar Heels (8-7, 1-3 ACC) earlier this year in Charlottesville, the Cavaliers (12-3, 3-1 ACC) won at the UNC Lacrosse Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C., taking down North Carolina 14-13 on its own turf.

The Cavaliers kicked off the match with three straight goals to take an early lead in their first postseason game of the year. North Carolina responded by scoring three of the next four goals to cut the deficit to one before a pair of Virginia goals gave the Cavaliers a 6-3 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Just as Virginia was building some momentum, the Tar Heels used a 7-0 run spanning the second and third periods to take a commanding 10-6 lead. 

After 26:17 of scoreless play, the Cavaliers finally broke through with just minutes left in the third period through goals from junior attackman Michael Kraus and senior midfielder Ryan Conrad.

North Carolina scored the next two goals before a 4-0 Virginia run erased the Tar Heels’ lead with just over five minutes left in the game. Senior attackman Mikey Herring and sophomore attackman Matt Moore combined to secure a game-tying goal. After Moore flicked a high pass towards the net, Herring notched a sensational leaping goal to tie the game at 12-12.

Sophomore attackman Alex Trippi restored North Carolina’s lead, but Kraus scored a clinical goal in transition to tie the game once again less than 20 seconds later.

With the game on the line, the “Cardiac Cavs” stepped up exactly when they needed to, as they’ve done all year.

With under two minutes remaining. Virginia freshman goalkeeper Patrick Burkinshaw made a necessary save before senior midfielder Matt Dziama fought hard for the ground ball. The Cavaliers’ up-tempo offense pushed the ball up the field quickly with freshman defenseman Cade Saustad driving the ball all the way to the other net. As soon as he drew pressure, Saustad fed sophomore attackman Ian Laviano, who fired off a lightning-quick shot and scored his 41st goal of the season to give Virginia a 14-13 lead — its first lead since the second period. 

Neither team scored again as the Cavaliers held on for their fifth one-goal victory of 2019 and completed yet another fourth-quarter comeback.

“When you come back a few times during the season like we have, our men truly believe that we are never out of it,” Coach Lars Tiffany said.

With the win, Virginia secure its 23rd ACC Tournament win and advance to the finals of the ACC Championship for the second straight year.

Laviano led all players with four goals while Moore had a tremendous six-assist performance. Conrad, Kraus and Aitken also combined for seven goals in an extremely well-rounded effort by Virginia.

With his two points against North Carolina, Aitken set the program record for career points by a midfielder with 130.

“The cultural shift of committing to this program, the sacrifice these men have made has been significant behind the scenes and it makes the difference," Tiffany said.

Next up for Virginia is No. 3 seed Notre Dame at Klöckner Stadium Saturday in the final of the 2019 ACC Championship. Faceoff is slated for 2 p.m.

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